William E.D.M. Armit, the Qld Native Police Officer (Part 1)

Sub-Inspector Armit.
Source: John Oxley Collection, SLQ

Guillaume Edington Armit, later William Edington de Marguerittes (de Margrat) Armit, was born in Liege, Kingdom of Belgium on 10 May 1848, to John Lees Armit Esq of Kildare St, Dublin, formerly an army agent, and Elizabeth Yeldham. William’s father’s first wife, Noemie Augustine Eugenie de Teissier, was a granddaughter of Jean-Antoine Teissier de Marguerittes, Baron de Marguerittes, guillotined in 1794, during the French Revolution. This explains the later addition to Armit’s name. Armit had four half-siblings from his father’s first marriage and five full siblings from the second. William went on to have a large family of his own.

Guillaume Edington Armit Birth Certificate. Source: Décès 1847, Naissances, Mariages 1848, Civil Registration, Liege, Belgium.

Armit arrived to New South Wales from London in 1866 on the La Hogue. In September 1871, he married Mariann/ Mary Anne Barton.  Armit was appointed Sub-Inspector on 5 June 1872, and first stationed at Murray River. Throughout the decade of his service with the Native Police, Armit found himself transferred nearly yearly, from Waterview to Georgetown to Bynoe, and finally to Carl Creek. Armit’s service was far from straightforward, before his permanent dismissal in 1882, he was dismissed in 1880 only to be re-appointed two months later.

Constable McCann accused Armit of drunkenness during his stay at Thursday Island. However, a number of Constables stationed with Armit at Thursday Island at the time, along with the Police Magistrate, provided witness statements to the contrary. In Henry M Chester’s, PM, words, Armit did drink to excess on one occasion when ‘he was leading a life of enforced idleness at a public house when off duty.’ In his statement, Armit indicated he was concerned in an enquiry at Georgetown in 1876, when Constable McCann was suspected of abstracting a sum of money from the Inspector’s safe, implying the charge against him was malicious in nature.

A list of the crew and passengers arrived on the ship La Hoge of London, from the port of London to Sydney, NSW, 5 November 1866. Source: State Records Authority of New South Wales: Shipping Master’s Office; Passengers Arriving 1855 – 1922; NRS13278, [X114-115] reel 417

The La Hogue. Source: State Library of Victoria

In his own words, Armit saw himself ’a victim of malversion and favouritism of others’ in the Queensland Native Police. He was charged by Sub-Inspectors Poingdestre and Thompson with embezzlement of a portion of trackers’ ration at Carl Creek. Poingdestre took over Carl Creek at the recommendation of Thomson in 1881.  Armit in turn felt he was tried by a man ‘who was himself culpable’, indicating in his statement the Sub-Inspector Poingdestre lived with his ‘gin and a half-caste boy’ at the station and regularly pocketing excesses of the rations expenses.

Armit correspondence. 18 April 1883, Normanton. Source: QSA A/38710 1883/3052

Armit, John Lees, Esq. Royal Dublin Society Historic Member Details.
Armit, William Edington de Marguerittes (de Margrat). QSA Staff File A/38710.
Armit, William Edington de Marguerittes (de Margrat). QP Staff File, QPS Museum and Archives.
Barton, Mariann. Australia, Marriage Index, 1788-1950.
Burke’s Landed Gentry Irish Family Records
Cairns Post
, 6 Mar 1884, p. 3.
Civil Registration, 1624-1914, Liege, Belgium. Belgium National Archives.
La France Litteraire, ou Dictionnaire Bibliographique, Vol. 8. Paris, 1838.
Rietstap, J B. Armorial General; Teissiers, Barons de Marguerittes, Suisse, Londres, Lang. Barons Francais, 1819, p. 891.

This information has been provided by the Queensland Police Museum from the best resources available.  The article was written by Museum Volunteer and Crime and Policing Historian Dr Anastasia Dukova.

Originally published on  Sep 6, 2016 in “FROM the VAULT – William E.D.M. Armit, the Qld Native Police Officer (Part 1)” by the Queensland Police Service is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (BY) 2.5 Australia Licence. Permissions may be available beyond the scope of this licence.

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